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Tyrone skipper call is a bonus for Sean Cavanagh

John Campbell

When Sean Cavanagh took a call from Mickey Harte seeking a meeting last week with some degree of urgency, he could only imagine it was about one matter.

It was the day before the launch of Owen Mulligan's autobiography and Cavanagh couldn't escape the feeling that 'Mugsy' had gone and said something in the book which may have needed a diplomatic effort!

"Mickey just gave me a call last Monday and said, 'Could I have chat with you?' I thought, 'God, it's the day before Mugsy's book launch, I wonder what has he stuck in this book that Mickey has to talk about so urgently?' It was panic for a few hours until he actually came down and met me here in Dungannon," he laughed.

A call to captaincy was something the veteran of 12 championship campaigns had not been expecting at all.

He thought his time for such an honour had passed when Stephen O'Neill was given the responsibility two years ago when Brian Dooher stepped down and Joe McMahon was appointed vice-captain.

Overlooking Cavanagh for either role at that stage fuelled the perception that the relationship between manager and player wasn't as strong as it had been with other team leaders.

In his own autobiography published in 2009, Harte had given a different perspective on Cavanagh's late withdrawal from the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, suggesting he was feeling the pressure and that the "roof caved in".

But his appointment as captain at the age of 31 points to a new relationship between them now.

"Last year I had resigned myself to the fact it wasn't going to happen. It's not something I have lost too much sleep over.

"I haven't captained too many teams down through the years. I never captained a minor or u-21 team. The club for a couple of years, and Ireland in the 2008 International Rules series.

"Joe (McMahon) was appointed vice-captain last year and you're thinking, 'Well Joe is going to be around as long as I am' so I had almost discounted it at that stage.

"It's not something you expect but it's something you would hope or wonder about," he pointed out.

"I had accepted it. The way it has come now is just a real bonus and it's something I can't wait to get my teeth into.

"It will probably not change my game or change what I do.

"Mickey explained that maybe Stevie (O'Neill) was going to be a bit more economical with his playing time next year. He had a fantastic league last year and maybe he was going to taper his time a little bit to see if that form will show during the championship which if it does everyone in Tyrone will be happy with that."

Cavanagh remains adamant that Tyrone must adapt and play a more expansive game in the future if they want to get the best from themselves, suggesting the defensive orientation favoured in the past is becoming obsolete.

"I genuinely think that most teams are going to have to approach it (more attack-minded) that way because there is a general uncertainty among most as to how the black card is going to be rolled out," he said.

"Obviously you do try and copy the team that won the All-Ireland the previous year so most teams are going to have to attack which can only be good for football in general," he said.

"It will be fantastic that no one will block you or stand in front of you from a third man point of view or rip you down. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into things in 2014.

"Tyrone has always been blessed with players who can carry the ball at speed and with plenty of skills. I don't see a potential change to an attacking style of football doing us any harm."

Tyrone have lost veteran goalkeeper Packie McConnell to retirement while Conor Gormley's future is in some doubt as his wife is expecting twins in the new year.

Belfast Telegraph


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